Flashing Bails Effect

A lot of us would have played cricket at some point in our lives. The sight of a ball hitting the wickets and dislodging the stumps is a treat to the eyes. However, not all balls hit the stump forcefully enough to dislodge the stump and in some cases, the stump may just bend and then come back to its original position.

Back in 17th/18th century, there were no instant camera replays, and therefore, in such a case, there was always a possibility of a dispute on whether the ball hit the stumps or not. Common sense says that these disputes would have resulted in the idea of putting a bail on top of the stump. This solution then resulted in changing the rule of getting someone clean-bowled from ‘ball hitting the stump’ to ‘dislodging the bail(s)’.

There were issues with this solution too, as the bails could come off just because of the wind or wouldn’t come off even when the ball hits it with a decent force. However, such incidents are rare (notable exception being World Cup 2019), and are also not related to the topic of this article.

With the introduction of 3rd umpire and all the related technologies, another problem cropped up – finding the exact moment when the bails get dislodged from the stumps. The exact timing is important more for stumped and run out, and less for clean-bowled. After three long years of research, a radio-wave based highly sophisticated and lightning-fast (literally) solution, Flashing Bails was developed. These will lit-up within 1/1000th of a second of the bail getting knocked off the stumps.

Now, let us take a step back. The reason we had to invent these sophisticated bails was because a rule had to be compromised three centuries back – ‘ball hitting the stump’ to ‘dislodging the bail(s)’, for the solution introduced at that time needed that. This was done as in those days, we did not have the hot-spot, snickometer and ultra slow-motion instant replays technologies to find out conclusively if the ball hit the stumps.

However, we had all these technologies when we started on the idea of building something, which eventually took shape in the form of Flashing Bails! We could have avoided spending three years of extensive research by reverting to the original simple concept of ball hitting the stump and establishing that and its timing conclusively using the hot-spot and other technologies that existed then!

Instead, we opted to solve a problem that got complicated by a solution developed in a very different context, and when that solution could have easily been dispensed with (or modified) in the current context.

This is what I refer to as a Flashing Bails Effect on our creative thinking – When a solution forces a change in a rule and makes the rule dependent on the solution itself and over time, the solution becomes more important than the original rule, all our instincts try to safeguard and improve on the solution even when the new context allows dispensing with the solution and reinstating the original rule. A Zero-based approach to problem solving can be an effective tool here.

There are different corollaries to this syndrome and we can find various examples in our daily life, where we fall for this. One illustration is what I talked about in my last article “Moving to zero office space”. How industrialization changed the practice of working from home and introduced the concepts of offices and factories, and how the telecommute and automation technologies are now changing the context.


Pawan Borar is a managing partner with Zeolyt. He would love to hear more thoughts and examples. Reach out!

Flashing Bails Effect
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